Santa Does Not Do DIY

Last night Jake, Dad and I travelled to Belfast to tell a story, this story, at the wonderful Tenx9 event in the Black Box Theatre. Tenx9 is run by two delightful gentlemen called Paul and Pad and invites 9 people to each tell a true story lasting 10 minutes each on a theme. This month’s theme was ‘Christmas’. 

It’s a wonderful welcoming place and the stories are magic……..

Christmas in Monaghan is magic.

I’m a believer. I come from a long line of believers. I am 52 ½ and I still get a Santa present. My children are 20,18 and 15 respectively and Santa still visits on Christmas Eve with their presents.

Many of my earliest Christmas memories have blended into each other over time, and I scarcely remember what I got, but I do recall it was always received with great excitement. Meccano , Lego, , Hornby, and Scalextric all featured, but one year , I think I was 6, I got a Lone Ranger action figure and Silver, his horse, with saddles, rifles, pistols, hats, holsters, frying pans, chaps, and not one , but two bandanas, one for catching ruffians and one for mass, Dad said.

Christmas was always magic. In the Seventies we had those shiny gold expandable decorations that you thumbtacked into the corner of the ceiling and then stretched it into the light fitting in the middle of the room, repeating the process from all four corners. Each year the distance stretched got shorter as we gradually lost bits.

Christmas Eve was the worst. You couldn’t sleep and you were terrified of not sleeping, because Santa couldn’t visit if you were still awake….and he knew if you were pretending. Somehow we eventually fell asleep, waking at 4.00 am and calling Mam & Dad…going back to bed…getting up at 5.00…going back to bed…6 ? No…7? ALRIGHT ! Dad led the way downstairs to make sure that Santa had finished and that there was no reindeer poo on the rug. ‘All clear !’ and we’d barge past him and survey our presents , we’d be sooo excited that we couldn’t even speak, almost levitating with delight. After the Santa presents we’d open all the wrapped presents under the tree, Aunt Minnie, Dad’s aunt from Belfast who visited every holiday, carefully gathering and  folding the discarded paper …for next year.

Then we’d get dressed and go to mass…the longest mass of the year because you just wanted to get home and play with your new stuff. The dining room would be laid out…the only time in the whole year that we used it. When I was a kid, every house seemed to have a dining room that no one ever seemed to use. We had crackers, starters ! We only ever got starters at Christmas, then soup, homemade by Mam, Dad warning us all as she fetched it to say it was the best soup ever when we tasted it. And then we had the works…..just everything…you name a Christmas dish and it was on our table. Trifle or pudding for desert and then we were told to be quiet while Aunt Minnie watched the Queen’s speech.
And then you’re a teenager, but it’s still class , Now you go to midnight mass at 10pm , so we get to open our presents as soon as we go home, and before Mam and Dad go to bed they tell you that Santa left your presents in the garage…A Nintendo !

Early twenties and our girlfriends started coming to our house after midnight mass, which was now at 9pm, because Christmas was still magic in our house. Santa now left your present under your pillow.
And then you decide to get married. Your first Christmas as a married couple is still months away, but you’re living in a brand new cul-de-sac in Kildare with other newly married, first  home owning couples , none of whom come from Kildare either. And out in the local pub with a gang of them one Saturday night when Barbara , Paddy’s wife, two doors down, tells us that they have decided to spend this Christmas with Paddy’s folks and the next with hers. She asks me innocently “So where will you be spending Christmas ? Yours or Eileen’s ?”.


“No we won’t.” my Soulmate interjects….forcefully.

“But Christmas in your house is….”

“We’re spending it here, in our house.”

“Just the two of us ?”

“It’ll be romantic.”

“Yeah…sure…just the two of us……..but Santa…”

People start to laugh. People are bastards.

Over the next few weeks I mention the odd time, after I’ve done something that slightly resembles someone with two left arms and blindfolded ‘s attempt at a DIY task , like hanging up a bathroom mirror…or a toilet roll holder, which no one told me wouldn’t stay up if you drilled into plaster board…or that there was a difference between wood drill bits or masonry drill bits…on my own..’Are you sure about this Christmas ‘here’ thing ? Every single neighbour is going home.’

My Soulmate would smile sympathetically and explain, again, that she wasn’t getting into the trap of this Christmas at mine, next at yours forever. We’d have our Christmas here, in our own home and then travel up to Monaghan on Boxing Day.

I eventually gave up in October and broke the news to my Mum. ‘Oh’ she said. Then she went quiet for a while. And then I could see her shoulders lift and a smile appear “Well we’ll keep your presents here and we can have another Christmas on Stephen’s Day” She never called it Boxing Day.

I was still a bit underwhelmed. My SoulMate invited her sister Ger and her husband to stay with us for Christmas so we wouldn’t be on our own, which was good….but Santa…..

I woke up on Christmas morning, we were all in great form, we swapped presents and had Champagne. Maybe this adult thing wasn’t so bad.

“You forgot something.” My Soulmate said. There was nothing left under the tree. “Behind the sofa.”
I pulled back the sofa to reveal a brand spanking new Scalextrix set ! I cried.

Dave and I spent an hour setting it up and most of the day playing it. Best .Present EVER !

We went home to Monaghan the next day and had a beautiful Second Christmas. My brothers were very impressed with my SoulMate’s present and told all their mates, two of whom gave me old sets they had in their attics. When Dave and I returned to Kildare we spent a whole day making a new track that went under the sofa , into the kitchen around the dining table and back. It was the best craic . Neighbours called in and we had a championship which I think they let me win so that they could keep coming over. I was made put it away for Valentine’s Day.

And then we had kids and we moved to Belfast…well we had a kid, moved to Belfast and had another two while we were here, it’s that kind of place. We always had Christmas in our house, then Second Christmas in Mum’s the next day. My two brothers both now married and doing the same thing.

We moved back to Monaghan , quite close to Mum & Dad’s , but we still spent the day in our house and the next in Mum’s.

When our daughter Robyn was 4 she asked Santa for a Doll’s House for Christmas. Santa did not let her down. He got her a three story, wooden, Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. It came in a beautiful flat box with a gorgeous picture of what it would be like when it was finished. As was/is our custom we go to mass on Christmas Eve, which is now at 7.30pm, return home have Christmassy nibbles , generous amounts of wine and when the kids are safely in their rooms and warned not to dare enter the living room, my Soulmate and I follow Santa’s instructions and arrange the presents. I set Robyn’s Georgian Dolls House box against an armchair so that she’d see it as soon as she entered the room in the morning.

“What are you doing ?”

“Arranging the presents.”

“You have to build it first.”

“But she’ll have great fun building it tomorrow.”

“”She’s 4 !”

“But you saw what I did to the bathroom in Kildare ?”

She just looked at me.

I started building the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms.

After an hour I decided that the instructions would help. I took apart what I’d done and started again. After another hour, its now 2.00am, I’d finished the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. I went upstairs and woke my Soulmate and she eventually came down to admire my handiwork.

“It’s beautiful , she’ll love it.” She beamed at me. And then she opened the front. Or at least she tried to open it. I tried to open it. I looked at the instructions…I’d hinged it to the left, the picture on the box was hinged to the right.

“Best of luck” she said as she went back to bed.

I took apart the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms. And slowly put it back together again. I woke up on the rug in front of the fire at 4.30am and crept upstairs and fell fast asleep in our lovely warm bed. Jake , Robyn and Elliott came in at 5.00am.

I was about to tell them to go back to bed, but my Soulmate was already out of bed telling me to hurry up. We went downstairs, me in the lead, like Dad, I went into the living room , on my own like Dad and said, loudly, like Dad “Oh sorry, you’re still here, will I send them back to bed ? Oh, you’re finished. See you next year.” And then I opened the door and the kids barreled past me.

Robyn stopped stock still. She looked at Eileen and I “I Love it !” she said and then knelt in front of it and opened the three story wooden Georgian dolls house, with an opening attic, and a hinged front which opened to reveal all three floors, attic and assorted furnished rooms.

Merry Second Christmas to you all.


Author: paul

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